The Foundation Pit

by Andrei Platonovich Klimentov

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Last Updated September 5, 2023.

There is a lot to unpack in The Foundation Pit. The following quotes are important because they illuminate the historical context and literary tradition in which Platonov writes:

“The women and girls diligently bent closer towards the floor and began insistently writing letters, using the scratchy plaster.” In the 1930s, the Soviet Union made education obligatory for everyone, including women and girls, with the intent of spreading its political ideology.

“Around the church grew the old forgotten grass of oblivion and there were no paths or other signs of human passing—people had evidently not been praying in the church for a long time.” The closing of churches was a key element of Stalin’s reform programs in the 1930s. Many priests were put on trial, and a number of atheist and anti-religious organizations were established, including in universities.

“After liquidating all their last breathing livestock, the peasants had begun to eat beef and had instructed all the members of their households to do the same.” By the 1930s, the Soviet Union’s campaign to “collectivize” property (abolish private property) was well underway. Afraid of having their property taken away, peasants slaughtered most of their livestock, much of which went bad before it could be consumed—resulting in widespread famine.

“Prushevsky looked quietly into all of nature’s misty old age and saw at its end some peaceful white buildings that gave off more light that was in the air around them.” This quote makes reference to the buildings that rose as part of the heavy infrastructure investment of the five-year plan, an economic development program that began in 1928. These large-scale projects represented the unfulfilled utopian promise of socialism, which stands in stark contrast to the actual events in the novel.

“The state, Voshchev, has given you an extra hour for this thoughtfulness of yours.” This quote references the reduction of the standard workday from eight to seven hours during the 1930s, an effort by the state to bring more people into the economy.

A more in-depth discussion of the historical complex in which The Foundation Pit develops can be found in A Companion to Andrei Platonov's The Foundation Pit by Thomas Seifrid.

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